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The Parable of the Taxpayer

(This could have been written today!! – Ninure Da Hippie)

A Reading for April 15: The Parable of the Taxpayer
by Chuck Collins 04-13-2010

This time of year it is useful to recount the parable of the angry taxpayer (from the VERY New Testament). Tip O’Neil, the colorful congressman from Massachusetts who said “all politics is local,” used to recount a version of this.

The taxpayer woke up one winter morning feeling upset about his taxes. He decided to travel to Washington to complain directly to his Congressional representative and attend a Tea Party rally.

He turned on the radio to listen the weather report, provided by the National Weather Service. He heard the city snowplow go by, clearing his street. He made a cup of coffee with clean water.

He cooked up some eggs and bacon for his family, food products that were certified by the meat inspectors at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It never crossed his mind the possibility that his family might be poisoned.
He kissed his children goodbye as they waited for the school bus to take them to the local public elementary school and high school. His oldest daughter hoped to attend college and was applying for financial aid loans and grants, like the ones he received a generation earlier. On his walk to the subway, he dropped her application letters in the U.S. Post Office mailbox.

He passed the senior housing community where his dear mother lived. He didn’t worry for a second about his mother, who had quality health care paid for by Medicare, a monthly Social Security check and a secure, friendly, and affordable community to live in.

He took the subway to the airport, half the cost of his ride subsidized by state and federal transportation funds. He then flew to Washington on a plane inspected by Federal Aviation Agency inspectors, after passing through security provided by the Transportation Security Administration.

On his way to the U.S. Capitol, he stopped for an hour at the Smithsonian Museum of History, celebrating our nation’s inspiring and unique history. Admission was free to all and thousands of school children were flocking into the museum when he departed. When he got lost, a courteous national park ranger gave him directions to the Congressional office building.

Finally, the taxpayer arrived at his meeting with the Congressman. “Congressman,” he said, pounding his fist on the table, “I don’t get anything for my tax dollars!” Later, he attended the Tea Party rally calling for less government and lower taxes.

This parable reminds us of all the things we take for granted in modern society, services we don’t usually notice until they go away. We like to grumble about “government bureaucrats,” but expect someone to be at our house within 5 minutes after calling 911. We want the library book on the shelf, the road to be plowed, the teachers to be well-trained, the floors of the elementary school to be clean — yet only pay attention when things aren’t going our way.

None of this takes away from the value of our faith communities — in strengthening communities, ministering to those in need, and providing services to the body and souls of our neighbors. The principle of subsidiarity — solving problems at the most local level possible — is essential to healthy communities and appropriate levels of government in our lives.
But living in the U.S., we tend to take for granted the advanced public infrastructure and knowledge institutions that our ancestors built for us. We’re like fish who swim in an ocean of public-funded services and don’t see the water around us.

Imagine if the taxpayer in the parable was miraculously transported to an impoverished country where clean water, emergency services, and education are only available to the wealthy. This invites us to not only see what we have — but also to consider what kind of society we’d like to become.

Of course there is government waste and inefficiency, as there are in all human enterprises. But the answer is more democratic engagement, not less. Complaining and withdrawing from our responsibilities as citizens will only make things worse. Instead, we should get together with others who share our concerns and work to improve things. It is after all our government, empowered by the constitution to provide for the “general welfare.”

Taxes are the way we pay for a healthy commons of infrastructure, public and community institutions, and basic quality-of-life services and safety services that make our lives better.

This April 15th and Tax Day, let us reflect upon this parable and share it with others.

Chuck Collins is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders concerned about tax fairness. He is co-author with Mary Wright of The Moral Measure of the Economy (Orbis Press). He recently published Tax Day Talking Points.

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Every 3.6 seconds a real person dies from hunger somewhere in the world!!!
Feed a hungry person today:
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A Living Wage?

(This “post” is from 2006, and sad to say not much had gotten better for the working/middle class while salaries and profits have grown astronomically for the the executives banks and corporations. I’m posting it today, because just yesterday I received an e-mail asking why I thought that minimum wage was not high enough for a working adult.

One does need to recheck the info in the footnotes tho.)

A Living Wage?

There are those who like to have folks equate “the poor” with “people looking fot handouts”.

There are those who like to have have folks believe that the reason why there is poverty in America is because “those people are lazy”.

There are consernatives, such as Ann Coulter who wll tell you that there is no such thing as “the working poor”.

People who believe these falsehoods are them easy to than to convince that the concept of a “living wage” is a bad idea.

I can’t help but wonder about their honesty, and their morality in light of facts like these:

1. A lack of jobs that pay a living wage
Poverty rates in the US have changed little since the 1996 welfare overhaul indicating that although many more people are in the workplace, they have moved to $7 and $8 per hour jobs and remain in poverty1. More than 2.9 million people below the poverty line are full time workers2.

2. A lack of housing that is affordable
In my hometown Chicago, studies have showm a “housing wage” (the wage that a family would need in order to be able to afford a two bedroom apartment for approximately $800 per month (the average cost), working 40 hours per week) is $18 per hour.

3. A lack of affordable healthcare options for low- and middle-income families
The average cost of family healthcare in 2005 was $10,880 per year3 , while the median family income was $46,300 per year; as a result over 46 million Americans were without health insurance in 2005.4

4. Low quality public elementary and secondary schools make college a remote possibility for children from poor communities
For example:

Due to an over-reliance on property taxes to fund education, Illinois has the second greatest disparities in funding for public elementary and secondary schools. As a result, students from wealthy areas have access to a quality education, and students from poor communities do not. Additionally, decreased funding for Federal Student Loans and Pell Grants and increased tuition costs across the board put a college/university education out of reach for the vast majority of students in impoverished communities.

Sources:
1 From the Washington Post, August 29, 2006 article, “US Poverty Rate Unchanged Last Year”,

2 From the Leadership Council on Civil Rights Education Fund’s report, “The Faces of Hurricane Katrina: A Portrait of Poverty Throughout America”, available online at http://www.civilrights.org/press_room/KatrinaPaperandFAQs.pdf

3 From the Kaiser Family Foundation. Report on-line at http://www.kff.org/insurance/chcm091405nr.cfm

4 From the Washington Post, August 29, 2006 article, “US Poverty Rate Unchanged Last Year.”

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Every 3.6 seconds a real person dies from hunger somewhere in the world!!! Feed a hungry person today:
http://www.hungersite.com

God is still speaking
http://www.stillspeaking.com

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